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Burn After Wearing

This story was produced by Grist and co-published with El País. A Spanish-language version can be read here. Reporting was supported by the Joan Konner Program in the Journalism of Ideas.

On the morning of June 12, 2022, Ángela Astudillo, then a law student in her mid-20s, grabbed her water bottle and hopped into her red Nissan Juke. The co-founder of Dress Desert, or Desierto Vestido, a textile recycling advocacy nonprofit, and the daughter of tree farmers, Astudillo lives in a gated apartment complex in Alto Hospicio, a dusty city at the edge of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, with her husband, daughter, bunny, and three aquatic turtles.

Exiting the compound, Astudillo pinched the wheel, pulled over next to a car on the side of the road, and greeted Bárbara Pino, a fashion professor, and three of her students, who were waiting inside.

They headed toward a mountain of sand known as El Paso de la Mula. Less than a mile from her home, squinting into the distance, Astudillo saw a thread of smoke rising from its direction. With her in the lead, the two vehicles caravanned toward the dune, the site of the second-largest clothes pile in the world.

As they got closer to El Paso de La Mula, the thin trail of smoke had expanded into a huge black cloud. Astudillo stopped the car and texted the academics behind her.

It looks like it’s on fire. Hopefully, it’s not there. 🙁 🙁 🙁

She then dialed them directly and asked, “Do you still want to go?”

a Chilean flag stands in a traffic cone in the desert among burned piles of garbage
A Chilean flag stands in a traffic cone among burned piles of clothing in the Atacama Desert. Fernando Alarcón

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Coca-Cola responsible for more than half of worldwide plastic pollution, study says

In general, food and beverage companies are the largest polluters in the world.

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – Coca-Cola is responsible for more than half of the plastic pollution across the globe, according to a new study.

Researchers found that the Atlanta-based company is the largest branded contributor of plastic waste. In general, food and beverage companies are the largest polluters in the world.

The company is trying to do better. It is planning to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one that they sell by 2030.

Ocean waves contain more ‘forever chemicals’ than industrial pollution. That’s bad news if you live on the coast

New research found that ocean spray spreads PFAS into the air and onto land, creating a vicious cycle of forever chemicals that never disappear.

Ocean waves contain more ‘forever chemicals’ than industrial pollution. That’s bad news if you live on the coast

[Photo: Fer Nando/Unsplash]

PFAS, or forever chemicals, are ubiquitous in our environment. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 57,000 sites contaminated with these chemicals. They’re in our drinking water, our soil, our products—and our ocean. And according to new research, when waves crash onto shores around the world, they spray hundreds of thousands of PFAS particles into the air, creating a cycle in which these chemicals go from land to sea and back again.

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a class of synthetic chemicals largely used to make products stain-, grease-, and water-resistant. They’ve been dubbed “forever chemicals” because they don’t easily break down and so stay in our environments for thousands of years. They’re linked to harmful effects to health, including cancer, decreased fertility, developmental delays, and more.

When forever chemicals contaminate land, they get into waterways and eventually into the ocean. Scientists used to think that once there, the particles would sink and dilute in the ocean depths. But researchers have found that isn’t true. Instead, a recent study from Stockholm University, published in Science Advances, details a boomerang effect in which sea spray spreads forever chemicals back into the air and onto land.

“It’s a concerning cycle from land to the sea and back to land,” said Ian Cousins, the study’s lead author and an environmental science professor at Stockholm University, over email. “The PFAS were emitted on land and then washed into the sea. They then cycle back to land with sea spray aerosols, and so the cycle continues. It puts a new dimension to the term ‘forever chemicals.’”

Plastics industry heats world 4 times as much as air travel, report finds

Greenpeace activists display a giant art installation called ‘Perpetual Plastic Machine’ ahead of Global Plastic Treaty talks Saturday, May 27, 2023 in Paris. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)

Pollution from the plastics industry is a major force behind the heating of the planet, according to a new report from the federal government.

The industry releases about four times as many planet-warming chemicals as the airline industry, according to the paper from scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Its emissions are equivalent to those of about 600 coal plants — about three times the number that exist across the U.S.

And if plastic production remains constant, by 2050 it could burn through nearly a fifth of the Earth’s remaining carbon budget — the amount of carbon dioxide climate scientists believe can be burned without tipping the climate into unsafe territory.

The report from the national lab comes out as civil society and public health groups, plastics industry representatives and members of national governments prepare to travel to Ottawa, Canada, for the fourth meeting of the International Negotiating Committee, which seeks to create a legally binding treaty to reduce plastics pollution.

Those negotiations are likely to be split by stark divisions. Representatives of environmental groups and countries across the Global South have called for limits on production of plastics, while the plastics industry insists that plastic pollution can be eliminated by stricter rules around recycling.

In last fall’s negotiations in Kenya, public health and environmental campaigners focused on the dangers posed by plastics — including microplastics and nanoplastics — in the human body and environment.

But these negotiations left out a key part of the plastics problem, the Lawrence Berkeley researchers note: the role of plastic in climate change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Where can you hide from pollution?’: cancer rises 30% in Beirut as diesel generators poison city

Lebanon’s economy and electricity system are broken and much power is now generated locally, with devastating effects on air quality and health

Smog hangs over Beirut most days, a brownish cloud that darkens the city’s skyline of minarets and concrete towers. An estimated 8,000 diesel generators have been powering Lebanese cities since the nation’s economic collapse in 2019. The generators can be heard, smelled and seen on the streets, but their worst impact is on the air the city’s inhabitants are forced to breathe.

New research, to be published by scientists at American University of Beirut (AUB), has found that the Lebanese capital’s over-reliance on the diesel generators in the past five years has directly doubled the risk of developing cancer. Rates of positive diagnosis, oncologists say, are shooting up.

“The results are alarming,” says Najat Saliba, an atmospheric chemist who led the study. In the area of Makassed, one of the more densely populated parts of Beirut tested, levels of pollution from fine particulates – that is, less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter (PM2.5) – peaked at 60 micrograms a cubic metre, four times the 15 mcg/m³ level the World Health Organization says people should be not exposed to for more than 3-4 days a year.

Since 2017, the last time AUB took these measurements, the level of carcinogenic pollutants emitted into the atmosphere has doubled across three areas of Beirut. Saliba says calculations suggest cancer risk will have risen by approximately 50%.

The Beirut skyline, just visible in the far distance amid a haze of smog caused by traffic and generators
The Beirut skyline is just visible amid a haze of smog. Photograph: NurPhoto/Getty Images

“It’s directly related,” she says. “We calculate the cancer risk based on the carcinogen materials emitted from diesel generators, some of which are classified as category 1A carcinogens.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The world dumps 2,000 truckloads of plastic into the ocean each day. Here’s where a lot of it ends up

A local fisherman performs maintenance on his boat while surrounded by trash washed up on Loji Beach in West Java, Indonesia.

The western coast of Java in Indonesia is popular with surfers for its world-famous breaks. There’s a majestic underwater world to explore, too. But it’s impossible to surf or snorkel without running into plastic water bottles, single-use cups and food wrappers.

The garbage sometimes forms islands in the sea, and much of it washes ashore, accumulating as mountains on the beach.

The world produces around 400 million metric tons of plastic waste each year. Every day, 2,000 truckloads of it is dumped into the ocean, rivers and lakes.

Despite global efforts to give plastic products longer lives, only 9% of them are actually recycled. Most plastic waste goes into landfills or is shipped to places like Indonesia and other Southeast Asian nations, many of which are already drowning in their own plastic pollution.

Clearing beaches of litter in Indonesia is no small task. The country is the world’s second-biggest producer of plastic waste. As the world’s longest archipelago — stretching over the same distance as London to New York — Indonesia has a vast coastline and three times the amount of sea surface area than land, making fishing an industry that 12 million people rely on.

Without adequate state services to keep the beaches clear of litter, fishing communities are on the front lines of the clean-up.

Loji Beach, on the Indonesian island of Java, is one of the most contaminated in the country.

Marsinah collects plastic on Loji Beach to try and sell it to informal recycling centers.

Plastic bottle labels are accumulated in a recycling center in Bangkok, Thailand.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Large-scale factory farms have become the biggest source of water pollution in the U.S.

Your hotdogs and burgers may be doing more than feeding friends at a barbeque.

Large-scale factory farms and confined feedlot operations have become the biggest source of water pollution in the United States.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to monitor factory farm pollution back in 2005 — but it has yet to actually do so. We can’t afford to wait any longer.

Factory farms, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, generate millions — if not billions — of gallons of waste each year. In fact, the largest factory farm has been known to generate up to 369 million tons of waste per year. And while every animal produces waste, this level of highly concentrated manure can wreak serious havoc on the health of the environment and on the public.

When massive amounts of fertilizer, animal waste and other pollutants aren’t managed properly, they foul our waterways and release harmful chemicals like ammonia and methane into the environment. Extended exposure to these potent chemicals can result in serious health consequences such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

Additionally, animal waste can leach toxic heavy metals and nitrates into waterways. Elevated nitrate levels in our drinking water can be dangerous for our health, and even cause low oxygen levels in infants and low birth weight.

These risks are why the EPA announced plans to monitor factory farm pollution almost 20 years ago. However, the agency has yet to release finalized plans to observe factory farm pollution and ultimately make decisions based off of the observations. This delay has allowed factory farms to continue emitting hazardous pollutants without sufficient oversight.

It’s the EPA’s duty to hold major polluting industries responsible and to safeguard public health and the environment in the process.

The Road Worrier

The Road Worrier

Final preparations for moving the donkey foals are upon me, which has me sorting out the logistics of getting them safely home. The breeder lives less than a kilometre away, which originally made me wonder if they could be walked over but the open road is just too dangerous. If it was just a risk of them getting spooked by a sound it would be fine, but the chance of a deadly encounter with a high-speed car is too high. Instead we will be forced to load them in a horse float to be dragged by a one ton vehicle, pushed along by oil based fuel imported from another continent.

This state of affairs is a relatively recent occurrence. For most of human history the roads were one of many common spaces which were used for a wide variety of activities, not just zooming from one place to another at maximum velocity. They were places where people socialised and worked without constant fear of mortal injury. Sometimes a small section of road will be roped off for people to enjoy for a festival, but that is becoming less common over time with an army of angry motorists waiting to whine about the inconvenience.

Despite all the apparent advances in personal transportation we are really no better off. The average speed of transport in London is the same today as it was centuries ago thanks to the ever-growing congestion. The average daily commute is about the same as it was for urban citizens of the Roman empire, only everything is further apart now since everyone is assumed to have ready access to a personal vehicle. The fuel that goes into cars and the pollution that comes out of them is orders of magnitude more toxic and carcinogenic than glyphosate or endocrine disruptors, but we have built such a car dependent society over the last century that nobody can even contemplate getting rid of them.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The #1 Reason I Became A Doomer

The #1 Reason I Became A Doomer

We’re not doomed because of climate change, resource depletion, or biodiversity loss. We’re doomed because human nature made those things inevitable.

There are many reasons I became a doomer.

Climate change is accelerating and governments aren’t taking it seriously. The sixth mass extinction event is well underway and most people don’t care. Fossil fuels and other crucial resources are running out and most people don’t even know. Pollution in the form of microplastics and forever chemicals are rapidly accumulating in our bodies, lowering sperm counts and causing all sorts of health problems.

And all that is because of overshoot. We’ve already exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet, so it’s only a matter of time before the global population comes crashing down. But overshoot isn’t the main reason I became a doomer. In fact, I became a doomer about a year before I knew what overshoot means.

The main reason I became a doomer is because I realized that the challenge we’re facing is so monumentally large and complicated that humans are incapable of overcoming it.

This idea upsets some people. They say things like, “What about World War II? Look at how the U.S. mobilized the entire nation to help defeat the Axis powers.”

Yea, after they were attacked and only because they had a clear enemy. This time, we can’t simply declare fossil fuels the enemy and stop using them overnight. Doing that would cause civilization to collapse, anyway.

Besides, fossil fuels aren’t the only problem. As I’ve explained before, we would still be headed for collapse even if there were no climate change or pollution because we’re completely dependent on finite resources (forests, aquifers, fossil fuels, rare-earth minerals, etc.) that will mostly be gone in a matter of decades.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXIV–Will Another Civilisation Rise From Our Ashes?

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXIV

August 15, 2022 (original posting date)

Tulum, Mexico (1986). Photo by author.

Will Another Civilisation Rise From Our Ashes?

Today’s contemplation has been generated in response to some comments on a Chris Hedges’ article I shared in the Peak Oil Facebook group I am a member of. Hedges’ article suggests our civilisation has not been the first to collapse but it will be the last. Two members suggested this is likely not to be the case and that another will arise — I have my doubts.

Will another civilisation rise after ours collapses?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Circumstances are always different and most certainly are today with our globalised, industrial civilisation that is, for all intents and purposes, completely reliant upon the dense and highly-transportable energy of fossil fuels — a finite resource that has encountered significant diminishing returns.

Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three significant impediments to a global, complex society again rising from the ashes of our destined-to-collapse one.

First, our environment (globally) has been degraded to a significant degree. Little fertile soil remains with most of the arable lands having to depend upon fossil fuel supplements to boost food production to feed all of us[1]. Toxic chemicals have spread across the planet, some of which have had devastating impacts upon ecological systems and other species (especially very important pollinators)[2]. It will take significant time, perhaps millennia, for our planet to recover and allow the over-exploitation that is necessary for a widespread, complex society to once again flourish[3]. And then there are those who contend that our burning of fossil fuels have created an irreversible greenhouse effect that is leading to feedback loops that will ensure inhospitable environmental conditions and precluding many, if any, species to survive long on this planet[4].

Second, today’s complex societies (but especially so-called ‘advanced’ economies) have resulted in a situation — because of our leveraging of fossil fuels — where almost no one has the skills/knowledge to be self-sufficient. In the past, most of a population was still heavily involved in food production and fundamental self-sufficiency skills, and so when a society ‘collapsed’ most people dispersed into the countryside and were able to fend for themselves[5]. That is certainly not the case today. The ability to procure potable water, grow one’s own food and/or hunt and gather, and construct shelter needs for the regional climate has been mostly lost. Few of an advanced economy’s populace would survive for much more than a few weeks/months without the ‘conveniences’ of our many energy slaves due to this loss of knowledge/skills — to say little of the chaos that would ensue and probably wipeout many of those who might possess the wherewithal to get to the other side of the ecological bottleneck we seem to be in[6].

Finally, there are those very dangerous complexities that we have created that could put an exclamation mark upon our industrialised society’s impending collapse, any peoples remaining, and the ability to establish a future complex society. Nuclear power plants. Biosafety labs. Chemical production/storage facilities. We have a potpourri of potential environmental catastrophes once the ability to contain/manage these facilities and their waste products disappears — to say little of the damage that has already been done to our ecological systems from them. 437+ nuclear power reactors[7]. 59 biosafety labs[8]. Countless chemical production and storage facilities[9]. I can only imagine the local/regional/global impact of a loss of ‘containment’.

I’d argue the chips are stacked firmly against another complex society, certainly global-spanning one, developing again in the future. Of course, as several notable personalities have been credited with stating: It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future[10].

Only time will tell…

To help support my internet presence, please consider visiting my website and purchasing my ‘fictional’ collapse novel trilogy — Olduvai.

[1] I won’t even touch upon the overshoot predicament here. See: Catton, Jr., W.R.. Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. University of Illinois Press, 1980. (ISBN 978–0–252–00988–4).

[2] Biosphere integrity and biogeochemical flows have been suggested to be the most severe planetary limits we have surpassed: https://www.stockholmresilience.org/research/planetary-boundaries/the-nine-planetary-boundaries.html.

[3] Yes, every one overexploits its environment; a contributing factor to its eventual demise.

[4] https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1810141115

[5] See: Tainter, J.. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, 1988. (ISBN 978–0–521–38673–9).

[6] See: Catton, Jr., W.R.. Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse. Xlibris, 2009. (ISBN 978–1441522412).

[7] For those who cheerlead nuclear as the only ‘safe’ and ‘green’ option (they are not), these 437 reactors only account for 10% of current electricity generation. https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/facts-and-figures/reactor-database.aspx

[8] ‘Safety’ is relative here given the number of ‘accidents/leaks’ that have occurred. https://theconversation.com/fifty-nine-labs-around-world-handle-the-deadliest-pathogens-only-a-quarter-score-high-on-safety-161777

[9] https://www.statista.com/topics/6213/chemical-industry-worldwide/#topicHeader__wrapper; https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php?title=Chemicals_production_and_consumption_statistics; https://cen.acs.org/business/World-Chemical-Outlook-2019-Around-the-globe/97/i2; https://archive.epa.gov/sectors/web/html/chemical.html.

[10] https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/10/20/no-predict/

The World Has Already Ended

The World Has Already Ended

Due to climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss, the world in which civilization was born has already ended. Most people just don’t know it yet.

“You say the ocean’s rising,
Like I give a shit,
You say the whole world’s ending,
Honey, it already did.”

– All Eyes On Me by Bo Burnham

The world that many of us grew up in is already gone, replaced by a world of superstorms, megadroughts, brutal heat waves, rising sea levels, toxic chemicals, and mass extinction. It happened so gradually that most people didn’t even notice, but they will soon.

Many people, particularly those in first-world countries, have been relatively insulated from the effects of the polycrisis, even if they have seen their standard of living drop. So it’s easy for them to dismiss warnings about the end of the world.

I’ve often heard people say things like, “What’s with all the doom and gloom? Sure, the weather is a little worse, but for the most part, things are fine.” The purpose of this article is to prove that things are not fine. In fact, things are worse than ever, and it’s all downhill from here.

Civilization was born during the Holocene, an epoch that lasted about 10,000 years. During this time, the average global temperature was incredibly stable, never varying more than 1°C. As a result, weather patterns were also very stable, creating conditions that were perfect for societies to flourish.

With more predictable weather, farmers were able to greatly expand agriculture, and the ability to stockpile grain contributed to the development of the first civilizations. Humans have had the intelligence necessary to form civilizations for about 300,000 years, but the Holocene made it possible.

We inherited a beautiful world covered with vast forests and teeming with millions of species. And in just a couple hundred years, we destroyed it. Forests are dying, countless species are going extinct, and the weather has become increasingly dangerous and unpredictable.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

It will cost up to $21.5 billion to clean up California’s oil sites. The industry won’t make enough money to pay for it.

For well over a century, the oil and gas industry has drilled holes across California in search of black gold and a lucrative payday. But with production falling steadily, the time has come to clean up many of the nearly quarter-million wells scattered from downtown Los Angeles to western Kern County and across the state.

The bill for that work, however, will vastly exceed all the industry’s future profits in the state, according to a first-of-its-kind study published on May 18 and shared with ProPublica.

“This major issue has sneaked up on us,” said Dwayne Purvisa Texas-based petroleum reservoir engineer who analyzed profits and cleanup costs for the report. “Policymakers haven’t recognized it. Industry hasn’t recognized it, or, if they have, they haven’t talked about it and acted on it.”

The analysis, which was commissioned by Carbon Tracker Initiative, a financial think tank that studies how the transition away from fossil fuels impacts markets and the economy, used California regulators’ draft methodology for calculating the costs associated with plugging oil and gas wells and decommissioning them along with related infrastructure. The methodology was developed with feedback from the industry.

The report broke down the costs into several categories. Plugging wells, dismantling surface infrastructure and decontaminating polluted drill sites would cost at least $13.2 billion, based on publicly available data…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Amazon Packages Burn in India, Final Stop in Broken Recycling System

Plastic wrappers and parcels that start off in Americans’ recycling bins end up at illegal dumpsites and industrial furnaces — and inside the lungs of people in Muzaffarnagar.

Muzaffarnagar, a city about 80 miles north of New Delhi, is famous in India for two things: colonial-era freedom fighters who helped drive out the British and the production of jaggery, a cane sugar product boiled into goo at some 1,500 small sugar mills in the area. Less likely to feature in tourism guides is Muzaffarnagar’s new status as the final destination for tons of supposedly recycled American plastic.

On a November afternoon, mosquitoes swarmed above plastic trash piled 6 feet high off one of the city’s main roads. A few children picked through the mounds, looking for discarded toys while unmasked waste pickers sifted for metal cans or intact plastic bottles that could be sold. Although much of it was sodden or shredded, labels hinted at how far these items had traveled: Kirkland-brand almonds from Costco, Nestlé’s Purina-brand dog food containers, the wrapping for Trader Joe’s mangoes.

Most ubiquitous of all were Amazon.com shipping envelopes thrown out by US and Canadian consumers some 7,000 miles away. An up-close look at the piles also turned up countless examples of the three arrows that form the recycling logo, while some plastic packages had messages such as “Recycle Me” written across them.

A worker sorts through a pile of plastic discarded from a paper mill, identifying metal and other items to recycle at a plastic scrap contractors yard, in Muzaffarnagar District, Uttar Pradesh, India, on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022.
A child holds a discarded toy at a plastic scrap contractors yard, in Muzaffarnagar District, Uttar Pradesh, India, on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg
Workers leave after a days work at a plastic scrap contractors yard, in Muzaffarnagar District, Uttar Pradesh, India, on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg
Waste pickers in Muzaffarnagar sift through mounds of plastic trash for metal cans or or intact plastic bottles that could be sold, while children look for discarded toys. Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

Plastic that enters the recycling system in North America isn’t supposed to end up in India, which has since 2019 banned almost all imports of plastic waste. So how did Muzaffarnagar become a dumping ground for foreign plastic?

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Global Dimming Keeping the Planet Habitable

Global Dimming Keeping the Planet Habitable

If you have not already seen it,  visitors to this blog  will have an interest in this 50-min documentary, “BBC Global Dimming Documentary”, via Gail Zawacki at her Wit’s End blog.

It relates to evidence obtained from the three-day aircraft grounding that occurred after 9/11 and the profound effects that just the U.S. Commercial Aircraft Flying has on Earth’s atmosphere. (One degree Centigrade increase  within three days.)
Quoting Professor Guy McPherson ;
“The impact of the aerosol masking effect has been greatly underestimated, as pointed out in an 8 February 2019 article in Science. As indicated by the lead author of this paper on 25 January 2019: “Global efforts to improve air quality by developing cleaner fuels and burning less coal could end up harming our planet by reducing the number of aerosols in the atmosphere, and by doing so, diminishing aerosols’ cooling ability to offset global warming.” The cooling effect is “nearly twice what scientists previously thought.” That this February 2019 paper cites the conclusion by Levy et al. (2013) indicating as little as 35% reduction in industrial activity drives a 1 C global-average rise in temperature suggests that as little as a 20% reduction in industrial activity is sufficient to warm the planet 1 C within a few days or weeks.”
Guy and I both believe a serious economic crash could be the end of us!
None of these risks operate in a vacuum, they are all connected.

Imagine what the carbon footprint of the largest most brutal military on the planet must be?
“According to its own study, in 2013 the Pentagon consumed fuel equivalent to 90,000,000 barrels of crude oil. This amounts to 80% of the total fuel usage by the federal government. If burned as jet fuel it produces about 38,700,000 metric tons of CO2…”

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Want to save the oceans? Stop recycling plastic

If you put your plastic in your recycling bin, there’s a decent chance it will end up in the seas off east Asia. If you put it in landfill, it’s going nowhere

Recycling plastic is a bad idea and, until we can be sure of where it’s going, we should stop doing it. We should put plastic in the landfill, instead.

This sounds like a really spicy hot take, but it’s not. I think it is pretty much accepted among people who study these things. The oceans are full of plastic, and that’s bad – but none of the plastic in the oceans comes from a British landfill. It almost all comes from developing-world countries, and by recycling we make the problem worse.

About 0.05 per cent of plastic waste in the UK is “mismanaged” – that is, dropped as litter or dumped into the environment, or left in open landfill. By contrast, in India, that figure is over 20 per cent – 400 times higher. China is comparable, at about 19 per cent.

In the Philippines, that figure is about 6.5 per cent, still more than 100 times the UK level but not quite as dramatic. But the Philippines is a collection of small islands, so plastic litter easily reaches small rivers there and ends up in the sea. Malaysia, similarly, has less of a problem with mismanaged waste, but large percentages of what is mismanaged ends up in the sea. So the average bit of plastic in one of those countries is pretty likely to end up in the sea.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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